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Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) is a common disease seen every day by primary care providers across the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 2018), eight percent of all adults over the age of 20 suffer from depression, and a study by the American Psychological Association found depressive disorders to cost roughly $71 billion annually. Today, psychotherapy is the recommended first-line therapy for treating MDD, but pharmacotherapy is more commonly used. Alternative forms of therapy are also being researched in order to avoid the use of medication while adequately treating the symptoms of MDD. For this review, seven databases were searched including PubMed, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, PsycInfo, Cinahl, DynaMed, ClincalKey, and ScienceDirect from September 1 to November 21, 2018. Works chosen for review were published after the year 2000 and included randomized controlled trials (RCTs), systematic reviews, and meta analyses. This review found several benefits of using exercise to treat MDD while reducing risks, but exercise alone is not superior in effectiveness to psychotherapy or pharmacotherapy. Overall, exercise offers the greatest benefit in reducing MDD symptoms when used as an augmented therapy to either psychotherapy or pharmacotherapy. Limitations of this literature review include lack of studies with longevity or large sample sizes.


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Pathophysiology, exercise, depression, SSRIs, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, Major Depressive Disorder, MDD

Exercise Compared to SSRIs in the Treatment of Major Depressive Disorder